Theyre big. Really big. Learn just how big they are on this Wildlife Wednesday.
Let’s pretend that you’re visiting South America, exploring (in an eco-friendly way, of course) the mighty Amazon River, when you happen across an otter that’s longer than you are tall! Congratulations, you’ve just stumbled across the aptly named giant otter.
On this Wildlife Wednesday, we’re going to learn a bit about these oversized carnivores.
Giant otters are found in Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, and a score of other South American countries. Specifically, they tend to make their dens in slow-moving areas of the Orinoco, La Plata, and yes, Amazon rivers.
- It’s worth mentioning again that these water-loving mammals are large. Very large. In fact, since they measure up to nearly 6 ft (1.8 m) and weigh up to 75 lbs (34 kg), they’re so large that they carry the honour of being the biggest otter in the world.
- They’re also the largest member of the family Mustelidae, which is the same family that weasels, ferrets, badgers, and wolverines belong to.
- The otters normally satiate their ravenous appetites by making meals of catfish, perch, and piranhas. However, when the pickings get slim, they’re known to add the occasional anaconda or caiman alligator to their diets.
- These family-oriented fish-feeders generally living in groups of up to 10 members; one mature pair that mates for life (something unique among otter species) and offspring from up to three previous years.
Why are they threatened?
Similar to their much smaller cousins, giant otters have really nice, soft fur, making them the targets of illegal poaching. Other major threats include habitat loss and fragmentation, and water pollution caused by runoff from gold mines.
Fortunately, conservation efforts are underway. Protected areas are speckled throughout South America. One particular program is working to reduce habitat fragmentation by creating a protected natural corridor that the otters can traverse.